Thursday, September 6, 2007

The tragedy and glory of men

I've mentioned before that the Welsh love poetry. I've had a few people try to disprove me by pointing out that they don't like poetry, but that is simply because another thing that is true of the Welsh is that they are naturally contrary.

The fondness for verse was again on display this week. Where else but Wales would they have a television programme that mixes poetry and rugby?

On Tuesday, BBC 2 aired a programme called "Rugby: Poetry in Motion." Featuring poems by Phil Carradice, Gillian Clarke, Kathryn Gray, Paul Henry and Owen Sheers, it was little more than half an hour of slow-motion shots of rugby players set to dreamy voiceover.

What's strange is that it worked. It shouldn't have. When someone refers to the fullback position as "midwife and curator," and suggests that it is an allegory for Western culture, that should cause you to throw things at the TV. But I sat there watching and writing down phrases and thinking: "Ooh, I wish I had come up with that line."

The poems focused on the various field positions, the team, and the game as a whole, making it all sound as if rugby were a part of the eternal struggle. Having played rugby, I suppose that in a simplistic and ridiculous way, there is truth to that -- a lot of my personal philosophy derives from my short time of having my ass kicked on a weekly basis.

So far, I can only find two of the poems online: Sheers' "Flankers" and Gray's "Prop," which I think may be incomplete from what I remember of the broadcast. Neither of the poems have my favourite lines, one of which I used for the headline of this post.

I also like:
- The poem referring to the time in which a player stares into the sky waiting to receive a kick as "the dazzling light between birth and death."
- The poem that described the scrum as "the mud and bone." Seriously, how bad-ass is that?

But easily, the best was the poem that started with the line: "I felled a tree with my bare hands."

Fuck yeah.

I tried to imagine something similar being done in the United States; it would fail miserably. I suppose Quincy Troupe could pull it off*, but he'd be the only one and then he'd be dropped as soon as they found out he hadn't really played varsity in high school**. Troupe, by the way, is one of only three living American poets that I can name off the top of my head -- the other two being May Angelou and Henry Rollins. Unless you count Common, which you probably should, because he's the bloke who came up with "Doing all she can for her man and a baby/ Driving herself crazy like the astronaut lady."

For those of you in Wales who missed it, "Rugby: Poetry in Motion" airs again on BBC 2 Wales, Wednesday 12 September at 10 p.m.

*The camera work here makes me want to kill. Just close your eyes and listen to the poem.

** I doubt anyone will get that reference without a Google search.


Curly said...

I agree on the visuals being pretty naff. I found it funny that the poem "no.8" only showed clips of the Honey Monster himself, Alix Popham... there are another two 8's in there too y'know.

The poems were pretty good.

Anonymous said...

another thing that is true of the Welsh is that they are naturally contrary.

No we're not!